Siler Rd. Affordable Housing Project in Santa Fe: Much to Like; Much to Question

At first blush, a sure fire winner, but there are questions to be asked and Retake asks them. Also, a report on the KSFR Mayor’s Panel.

Events & Updates (before discussion of Siler Rd. Project)

Mayor’s Panel. The big news is that in response to my question as to whether, as Mayor, you would direct staff to develop a plan to incorporate 5-7 City-owned properties into an affordable housing Community Land Trust with strong resident governance, all five answered YES!. I am not sure we should pop the corks just yet, but you can bet Retake will remind the winner of his/her response in March. In speaking with all of the Mayoral candidates, I was told that all will complete the Retake Our Democracy People’s Platform survey by Feb 1. We will publish their responses on Feb. 3. Click here to review the platform. While the platform, in survey form, has been given to the Mayoral Candidates, we will continue to hone this list of policy priorities and use it for advocacy after the City elections in March. So feel free to chime in. We are particularly interested in a water policy that could impact local institutions and other heavy users of water.

Moral Monday, January 29th at the Roundhouse. SOMOS Un Pueblo Unido “We Are All America” Rally & Immigrant Day of Action.  Join SOMOS this Monday, January 29th as they kick off the “We Are All America” national week of action and help us fight back against the President’s attacks on our communities! I attended SOMOS’ Roundhouse event last year and it was incredible. Can’t ask for a more inspiring way to spend a day. As I will be meeting with a host of legislators in the morning to oppose the PNM bill, I will miss the training, but will be at the event.

  • 8:00 NEW LOBBYING TRAINING & BREAKFAST: Santa Fe Farmer’s Market pavilion (1607 Paseo de Peralta Santa Fe, NM).  Street parking and parking structure available.
  • 10:30 a.m. | Lobby legislators (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM)
  • 12 p.m. | Rally outside the Capitol building (east concourse)
  • To RSVP for lobby training or for more information call Somos at: (505) 424-7832 or by email at somos@somosunpueblounido.org. Click here to view flyer.

MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2018. 5pm. PUBLIC WORKS/CIP & LAND USE COMMITTEE MEETING. Santa Fe City Council Chambers. Two items of interest, approval of $200,000 in additional funding for the Siler Rd. project (see below) and a resolution brought by Councilor Ives to formally oppose SB 47 (PNM’s noxious effort to mislead us yet again). Thankfully Councilor Ives has seen through it. Interestingly, there is a consent calendar item on the 5pm Wednesday City Council hearing to provide up to $400,000 in additional funding for this project. That the item is on the consent calendar means public comment will not be allowed on Wednesday, so the hearing on Monday may be your only chance to press for answers to the questions posed in our analysis of the proposal below. We encourage you to also reach out to Councilor Ives, the chair of the Committee.

Tuesday, 8:30am Roundhouse Rm. 311. Note Change in Time of Senate Conservation Committee hearing for PNM’s SB 47. The hearing has been moved from 1:30pm to 8:30am, so snag a coffee and meet me in hearing room 311 (and the hearing room can also change, so look to the blog on Monday morning). For details on the bill, click here.

Wednesday, Jan 31, 5pm. Santa Fe City Council Chambers. Consent calendar items for both of the items discussed on Monday at the Public Works/CIP & Land Use Committee Hearing.

If you haven’t taken the Speak Up New Mexico! Legislative Priorities survey, please do so today to tell your legislators what bills you want to see become law. 

Siler Rd. Mixed Use Housing Project: Weds, Jan 31. 7pm Santa Fe City Hall

Normally Retake would be all in for a city effort to do a high-density, mixed-use development and at first blush, the Siler Rd. project has much to offer, including having held a participatory visioning process to flesh out some of the project elements with the resulting project defined by commitments to:

  • Low and very low-income rental housing;
  • Mixed use, high-density development;
  • A range of 2-3 bedroom units appropriate to families; and
  • Housing ‘themed’ around the arts industry that could be attractive to young, creative people.

However, I have learned to check in with Retake’s allies before drawing conclusions. PNM’s offering to solarize 22 Santa Fe City facilities sounded remarkable. I recall Councilor Ives acknowledging that when he read about it, he thought: “PNM has finally gotten it.” Well as he and others dug deeper, it was clear that this was the same old PNM.

So I checked in with allies from Chainbreaker Collective and Earth Care and dug a bit deeper into the proposed development’s website. To be clear, this is not some heinous developer nightmare wrapped in progressive rhetoric. While Chainbreaker Collective has not taken a position on the project, Miguel Acosta, a trusted ally, offered the following concerns.

The first is how the project was brought forth not from a community affordable housing framework, but from the creative class models pushed by Richard Florida. Hailed as a hero by some urban developers and as the father of gentrification by others, a recent Guardian report analyzes this model. An approach to development focused on the creative class, people who produce things for a living: artists, jewelers, software developers and techies, and hipsters. I wonder if the kind of Richard Florida-model ‘creative class’ formula was a premise that was baked in to the proposal before public comment came into play,

The Florida model lured Mayors from across the country trying to revive low-income neighborhoods, developing boutiques and live-work housing for artists and other creatives and generating new economic vitality in urban communities. From the Guardian: “Florida’s formula has proven to benefit the already rich, mostly white middle class; fuel rampant property speculation; displace the bohemians he so fetishised; and see the problems that once plagued the inner cities simply move out to the suburbs.”   For the Guardian article click here.

Florida himself has seemed to acknowledge the error of his ways in his new book, The New Urban Crisis, a crisis of gentrification to which his creative class approach has been a major contributor. From The New Urban Crisis: “But the real issue is the immiseration of the service class. “Yes, there are many artists and musicians who struggle, but the creative workers have colonised the best spaces in cities, pushing the service workers out to the periphery.” And this, I think, is at the heart of Miguel’s critique. The concept of mixed use, high-density affordable house investments is to be honored, but when does the service class’s needs get addressed and why did the artists jump to the front of the line? What we don’t want as a takeaway from this question is to pit young artists against the service, hospitality and construction workers of our community, but rather to design a comprehensive affordable housing plan that incorporates multiple models serving different populations in every district in the City. In this way, voters/residents can weigh in more thoughtfully as to whether or not the full span of City housing needs are being addressed. This is one of the policies identified in the People’s Platform.

So, while there is much to like about the promise of this project, there is also Mr. Gentrification waving a red flag and whether this project does more harm than good, triggering gentrification and further pushing out working class families, or is a beacon of thoughtful urban development will lie in the details, discussed below.

  • By using the tax credits for this project, other future projects will miss out, projects focused on people who work in the service industry, construction, and other vital city workers. This is a key factor and with the planning process for the Santa Fe University Art & Design launching Retake will be paying close attention that this project puts housing for service, construction, and hospitality industries at the front of the line. Again, a comprehensive housing plan with tax credits clearly assigned to various projects would make it easier to understand whether the investment here is worthwhile.
  • The Committee hearing agenda indicates a request for another infusion of City resources to make the project work. One email I received claimed that without these additional funds, provided this year, the project would be dead. What other City priority will have to go unfunded while the City shifts funds to Siler Rd?
  • But the larger issue for me is that there are many non-specific commitments made in the plan:
    • In relation to the mix of rental units. There are vague statements that there will be some mix of very low-income rental, low-income rental, and at least 25% of units devoted to families. But without a firm commitment stated, it is hard to say how much very low-income people will benefit. There is a huge difference between 10% of the units reserved for very low-income renters and 50%. And while the plan identifies units would be available at $350/month, there is no language committing to the number of units available at this or other levels.
    • Resident selection process. There is reference to a selection process to identify residents with a commitment to the creative arts. From the FAQ: “While Santa Fe has a wealth of economic opportunity for artists, all too often other creative members of our community are overlooked because their work doesn’t fit into the standard definitions of what it means to be an “artist.” This project is designed to overcome this problem by including all types of creatives such as craftspeople, chefs, musicians, fabricators, designers, entrepreneurs, writers and more.” Absent from this list are examples of more traditional Native and Hispanic art forms. Who is part of the selection process?  And who establishes criteria for what constitutes ‘artists’ will be critical to determining how inclusive the community becomes? What’s more, does the project intend to prioritize local artists or will this project become a pipeline to recruit young hipster artists from Austin, San Francisco and New York? These are important questions to be answered.
    • The plan promises workshops, community outreach and input. Here too there is not much detail. Holding a meeting in the Chavez Center or Southside Library and checking it off the list as outreach is not sufficient. Hopefully, project leadership will reach out to long-time grassroots organizations with roots in the south and west side of town, groups like Chainbreaker Collective, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Earth Care, and Wise Fool to help with this outreach to engage a broad and diverse representation of artists who benefit from the project.

The FAQs are an excellent, concise summary of issues and does a good job of providing more info on the project. Click here for the FAQs. I am not going to ask Retake supporters to advocate against this proposal, artists need affordable housing, too. So, rather I ask you to write to Peter Ives, chair of the committee hearing the proposal on Monday, and ask that he seek answers to the concerns expressed above.  Councilor Ives’ phone and email are:  Peter Ives, District 2 Councilor, (505) 955-6816, pnives@santafenm.gov.

That’s it for today. Lovely spring we are having…. In January.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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